The butcher and the craftsman

Kicking off big events in the recent past has not been good for the ICC or for the South African team.

updated: September 29, 2007 07:51 IST
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New Delhi:

Kicking off big events in the recent past has not been good for the ICC or for the South African team.

But Tuesday's start to the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup did help infuse some life into the cricket world as a whole.

More importantly, the match offered a glimpse into the world of 20-overs cricket and hopefully the tussle between the butcher and the craftsman would have placated some skeptics.

True to his reputation, the fearsome Chris Gayle smashed the young and old of the Proteas pace attack to shreds.

In a display of brute force with little finesse, the hard-hitting West Indian opener butchered the hapless South African attack to all parts of the ground, pounding 10 towering sixes and seven boundaries.

His 117 runs of a meager 57 balls was the backbone of the West Indian innings, and although it didn't quite seal-the-deal for the Caribbean juggernaut, it did mean that the Twenty20 World Cup got off to the start that it so deserved.

Gayle's blistering performance - while enthralling the audience and commentators, who by the way need to chill out because no one really knows what is really a match-winning performance in this format - must have buoyed the traditionalists who would have been perched in their prudish armchairs lamenting the state of the game.

However, I am fairly certain that the South African reply would have eased their tense nerves.

Chasing a dangerous 206, Herschelle Herman Gibbs relived his love affair with the Wanderers. The super-talented yet flaky South African batsman stood a class apart caressing the ball to every corner.

Although Gibbs is never a delight for the orthodox cricket lover, his 90 of 55 balls - 14 fours and two sixes - was a lesson to those who believe that the shortest version of the game, yet, is all about burly butchers and power hitting.

Batting for a substantial time with a runner, Gibbs was at his mischievous best with his trademark flicks over fine leg and cocky cuts to the third man region - all balanced out with some old-fashioned cover drives.

While he was well supported by the imposing Justin Kemp, who smashed a valuable 46, the flamboyance of Gibbs at his 'arrogant' best stole the show.

In the end, it was a team contribution coupled with individual brilliance that led South Africa to victory - doesn't sound very different from what any other team game should be like.